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Full text of "Alexander von Humboldt"

258              9                  UCFE OF
unexpected kindness, witli a friendliness of which I
might have "been proud had I not known that I owed
it solely to your recommendation, I lived with him,
"but without" your interposition he would hardly have
taken sueli interest in a Berlin man, as I am5 with a
friend of Engel, Herz. Biester, and so many anti-
Jacobites. I am deeply grateful to you for the con-
nexion,, for his society was highly interesting to me.
He is a remarkable thinker, rich in new, great, and
profound ideas, which he expresses in a spirited and
eloquent manner ; his character seems to "be so noble
that I cannot discriminate whether he has won my
heart or my head/'"'
This is the oldest letter of Humboldt's which we
possess., and his subsequent letters to Forster show
the same admiration for Jacobi's character and learn-
ing, although he frequently combats his assertions in
Ms correspondence with him. In a letter written to
Forster about this time, he criticises an essay which
Forster had written on English literature. He says ;
"Essays on literature have their difficulties. If the
supply of materials is scanty, they are meagre and
unsatisfactory ; if it is great, as I think yours was, it
is difficult to make a right selection, and the writer
runs the risk of producing a mere catalogue of names.
Therefore your essay seems to me to be masterly. It
seems to run so smoothly in an artfully spun thread,
and yet the reader cloe^ not anywhere detect the art
which has been necessary to spin it. I was especially
pleased by the manner in which you show the influ-
ence of the British national spirit on the literature.
A knowledge of the most modern authors of a country
and of their writings, is certainly very interesting, but
the reflecting reader desires rnore ; he will know
why the authors in this country write in such a spirit
and in no other, why certain "branches of literature
flourish and others are neglected, And this, I think,
you have shown excellently. The account of the reli-
gious condition of England is written in a spirit in
which I would like to see much more written."